A Few Green Updates on a Usual Day Off

Somehow in central Virginia we have gone from very warm, humid summer weather back to  rainy, breezy spring weather.  I am not complaining, of course.  I am grateful for a short break before the real heat and soul-melting sun begins.

The recent bout of rain and cooler weather has meant wonderful things for our little garden.  After my a weeding extravaganza early last week, all of our food producing plants have had plenty of room to grow, and grow they did.

It looks like our strawberry patch will have another large harvest very soon.  It was covered in the familiar white blossoms, most of which have become green strawberries.  They’ll be ripe for picking in a few short days.

Our lettuce is actually having a second go around for this year’s early season.  Last year we had lettuce until about Memorial Day, then not again until late September.  It really doesn’t do well under the direct sun of summer.  Because of our cooler weather, though, some of the lettuce plants that had gone to seed have actually reproduced!  New lettuce plants have sprung up in the patch, giving me fresh green leaf lettuce again.

The zucchini and squash have been doing beautiful things, as well.  I see those tell-tale orange-yellow flowers already, and my mouth is salivating at the prospect of making my Nonna’s Patoli, an Italian zucchini fritter that I made in large quantities last summer due to our generous zucchini harvest.

Our final surprise this week was string beans.  We officially harvested our first three string beans this morning.  The plants themselves are doing well, and have been climbing the trellis Beard fashioned for them out of some pieces of old deck we had in our yard.

I’m glad to say that all of our garden successes (and failures) so far have come with them help of three very important things:  water, sunshine, and physical labor.  We do not use any chemicals to control our weeds, nor do we use a specific plant food to make them grow faster or bigger.

For weeding we just pluck weeds out as we see the little suckers stick out of the ground.  It’s hard work, and probably why organic produce is so darn expensive, but it’s worth it.  I know there isn’t anything unsafe hiding in our food.

We have started a compost pile in one of our raised beds, and I hope we’ll be able to use some of that nutrient rich soil next spring.  For now, though, we are faithfully adding organics and rotating it manually with a shovel.

Do any of you keep a garden?  What are you finding in your garden this week?


It’s Going to Be a Green Monster Kind of Week

First, let me explain what a green monster is, then I’ll tell you why I’ll be drinking these all week.

I first read the term “green monster” on the blog  Oh She Glows.  This blog is written by a very creative vegan baker and blogger.  She has some of the best tasting and most innovative recipes I’ve seen on the web, and they’re pretty darn healthy, too!

Now, if you’ve been reading long enough, you’ll know that no one in the DP family is vegan or even vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the occasional healthy vegan recipe, including, of course, green monster smoothies.

A green monster is a smoothie that is made with a few cups of greens (usually spinach or kale) in addition to the usual fruit, ice, milk/yogurt, etc.  Green monsters are almost always very green in color (thus the name) but have little to no taste of the greens in them.  They are an excellent way to get your  daily dose of greens!

Why will I be drinking these things this week?

Since college I have been eating a green salad for lunch almost everyday during the warm months (and soup in the cold months).  I am one of those people that just loves veggies dressed in olive oil and vinegar.

I know there are those readers thinking “yes, yes, me too!” and then there are some of you thinking “ugg, I knew there was something I didn’t like about this lady”.

In the past week or so, though, (approximately weeks 11-12 of this pregnancy) I have not, for the life of been, been able to eat a green salad.  Which is weird.  Beyond weird.   But, of course, being the huge fan of Sam’s Club that I am, I bought the giant container of fresh baby spinach this week (which for the record, I go through by myself in a week and a half with no problem.

So my problem is that I have tons of spinach and no appetite for it.  And my husband is not about to dig into a green salad either.  Because of this, I’m embracing the green monster smoothie, both to use up my spinach and also to get it in my body in the least offensive way possible.

One of my go to green monster smoothie recipes is this:

DP’s Go To Green Monster Smoothie

(makes 2 servings)

2-3 cups spinach

1 banana

1/2 cup milk or yogurt

3-8 fresh or frozen strawberries (depending on size and mood)

2-4 tbsp flax seed (depending on how things are “going” that day)

1 cup of ice

I throw this in my blender on high until it’s smooth, then pour into two small Mason/Bell jars.  I’ll keep the second serving in the freezer if Beard isn’t feeling a smoothie; it’ll thaw just by taking it out and sitting on the counter at least a half hour or more before you want to drink it.


As a treat, sometimes I’ll look up some crazy delicious sounding green monster smoothies, and this is one I loved from Oh She Glows:  Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bomb .

I did alter the recipe quite a bit when I made it because of what I had on hand:

  • I didn’t use tofu
  • My spinach was raw
  • I used extra cocoa powder instead of carob powder and Chocolate Infusion powder
  • I used cow’s milk
  • I used no oil
  • I used flax seeds instead of chia seeds (which DON’T do the same thing, but I just wanted flax in there)

The smoothie is a delicious treat!  Try it. 🙂


Some More Green Updates: Spring is Really, Really Here

It feels like we have had some of the craziest weather I’ve ever seen in the past few months in central Virginia.  For New Years Day, our family went for a walk in the 65 degree weather, then February brought in some mild, but cool weather.  In March we saw 80 and almost 90 degree days, but April was chilly and rainy.  Now that May is nearly over it finally feels like spring has arrived.  I was afraid it never would.  I was also afraid my garden wouldn’t know how to handle all the changes in temperature and sun exposure.

But it did, thankfully.

I had planted some cool weather crops in late February including carrots, spinach, kale, and rhubarb.  I also have lettuce that I have personally never planted, but it continues to grow beautifully every year.  I start harvesting that in mid to late April.  I’ve harvested some spinach, but no matter how many spinach plants I plant, I never seem to get a great yield.  I wonder what it is I’m doing wrong.  I pluck a few leaves off each plant every few days, but never enough to really through into a green monster smoothie or make a salad.  My kale failed horribly, and I have no clue why.  I was a little bummed because I love through kale into stews and soups.  I may try a late crop to see what happens with that.  I haven’t yet harvested carrots because I’m honestly not sure when to do that.  I have to do a little research into how big and fluffy the top of a carrot has to be before the tuber is orange and delicious.

I think by far the biggest gardening success we’ve had this year is our strawberries.  Last year my in-laws gave us a medium-sized strawberry plant in a hanging basket.  It survived and did pretty well through the summer and most of the fall.  We did not, though, harvest very many strawberries; I think we ate four of our own berries.  Just four.  Barely enough to slice and put on your morning cereal.   By the time early fall rolled around, I thought the strawberries could use a little more room to grow, so I put our fairly small plant in the middle of one of our 5’x5′ raised beds.  Through the fall, winter, and early spring, that one strawberry plant nearly filled the entire bed, and starting in early April we’ve been harvesting about half a pint of strawberries a week!  I’m finding that for their yield, strawberries are super easy to grow in our area.  I would venture to say they’d do well all over the mid-Atlantic region and similar climates.  The only thing to watch out for is containing the plant’s growth and spreading by clipping the extending tendrils before they take root.

Other things I’ve got planted that are about ready to bloom and fruit include string beans, zucchini, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and fennel.  So far my string beans seem to be extending their tendrils out, so I expect they’ll be climbing the trelisse very soon.  I’ve also seen some tomato flowers already.  That makes me more excited than anyone can imagine.  As an Italian woman, I probably cook my body weight in tomato products 7 times over in the course of one year.  In order to be more frugal and proficient about this fact, we’re growing and preserving our own tomatoes and tomato sauce.  I seriously cannot wait!

Anyone else have anything coming up already and soon to come up from the ground?  I’m curious to know what’s growing where. 🙂